Mike Birch celebrates his 76th birthday - as he gets ready to race in the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre


This man is a legend – make no mistake. The crazy thing is that he’s a thousand times more famous in France than he is in his home country of Canada or even in the UK, where he lived for many years.

So when Mike Birch celebrated his 76th birthday today, it was the French TV, press photographers and skippers who turned out in force to congratulate him. Birch is just about to race in the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre with American sailor Rich Wilson. Their combined age, laughs Wilson, is 133.

I wrote about Mike back in September and you can read a précis of his incredible career here . But to recap in brief, he’s been a genuine, real-life cowboy, a gold miner, a delivery skipper, pioneered ocean racing in multihulls, built and sailed the world’s first pre-preg maxi cataraman and broke the 24-hour record (in his 50s) and went on to race some of the most sophisticated trimarans.

And if that isn’t impressive enough, Mike is planning to follow this race by doing the Quebec-St Malo race next year in a Class 40.

He is as quiet and self-effacing as ever and in his reluctant speech today he told fellow skipper Michel Desjoyeaux that he hoped he would be also be racing at 76 – if he wished to – but to bear in mind that it comes round all too quickly.